July 16th. We set off in a gentle wind and more sunshine round the north coast of Rum, heading for a lunch stop at Loch Scresort which is the main harbour on the island. Rum is high and mountainous, with slopes covered in pine trees. As we entered the harbour, we could see Kinloch Castle at the head of the bay – a Victorian mansion built by a Lancashire textile tycoon as a luxury shooting lodge. We picked up one of the (new this year) visitor buoys near a (new) commercial floating pontoon for the fish farm. After lunch we set off northwards, towards the Point of Sleat. In the distance we could see the misty mountains surrounding Loch Nevis, and the town of Mallaig, low on the shoreline.
We were sailing dead downwind, so as the wind strength dropped, we switched on the motor to charge the batteries. Our small permanently fixed solar panel is providing a little bit of extra power, and we have so far had only limited success using our much larger panel which we have to put out when we stop, so we were in need of some additional charge. We picked up a visitor buoy at Armadale on the Isle of Skye for the night, which was a little bit swelly, but not enough to stop us sleeping. The following day (17th) it was wet and windy, so we went ashore to visit Armadale castle, described as the ‘spiritual home’ of Clan Donald, and enjoyed the museum there, which gives an overview of Scottish clans and their history.
We had our second ‘remote shower’ experience here: following signs we walked a kilometre or so from the pier and found two showers (£2 for 6 minutes!) in the corner of a boatshed belonging to Isle of Skye yachts, who maintain the mooring buoys in the bay. Back on the boat we decided to move on and find a more peaceful overnight anchorage. So we headed north a few miles, under jib only in a force 5-6 and rain, and dropped anchor in the large bay behind the Isle of Ornsay.
July 18th. A short upwind sail today in F4 gusting F5 SW wind – 9 miles across the Sound of Sleat to Dun Ban bay, on the west side of the remote Knoydart peninsula. Although part of mainland Scotland, Knoydart is only accessible by boat, and has one road joining two villages along the coast. Dun Ban (also know as Doune) bay is tucked behind a headland which makes for sheltered water in winds from north east to south west. There was once a large village at Doune, which was deserted in the clearances. In the 1980s one family rebuilt a ruined croft and started a holiday business providing walking and boating experiences for guests prepared to make the journey: most guests travel to Mallaig and are picked up by the Doune motorboat to travel the final 7 or so miles to the lodge. See our FB page for more photos.
The Doune dining room is also open to visiting yachtsmen and we enjoyed an amazing meal there overlooking the bay. Before dinner we walked up the steep and boggy path to the road and along the coast, with fabulous views over Loch Nevis, its steep slopes shrouded in cloud in places and lit by lovely sunlight in others.
July 19th. Our destination was Mallaig today, but en route we turned into Loch Nevis and sailed along the coast we had viewed from the land the previous day. We anchored for lunch in a tiny bay on the south coast of the loch – Port Ghuibrain. Hardly noticeable as we approached, we tucked in between two rocky outcrops with a gently shelving sandy bay where we dropped our anchor for an hour or two. A magical spot. We set off in the afternoon to motor the last couple of miles to Mallaig and tied up in the marina. It felt strange after a week at anchor and on mooring buoys to be able to step off the boat onto land. Mallaig is a busy little town dominated by the railway station and ferry port and had just what we needed: food shops, showers and some friendly locals in the boatyard who kindly lent tools we needed to do some small repair jobs.